A Rose for Emily Analysis (3).pdf

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  Caroline Spackman  A Rose for Emily Analysis  AP Lit P8 Brayko To Kill A Northerner “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner recalls the later life and death of Emily Grierson, an enigmatic outsider whose father’s arrogance and aristocratic status compel neighbors and townspeople to harbor hostility towards her. After she appears to become romantically involved with and possibly married to a town newcomer and Northerner named Homer Barron, his eventual disappearance sparks speculation and it is finally revealed that he was poisoned and murdered by Emily. The short story delves into weighty themes including change and control (or lack thereof) and ultimately reflects upon the heavy impact of externally-imposed isolation and the extents to which it can drive an individual. Faulkner paints a disoriented and somewhat confusing narrative through the use of an unconventional non-chronological story structure and a narrator whose perspective seems to represent the townspeople as a whole. It can be inferred that, following a life of oppressive isolation under her father’s iron fist, Emily was driven to commit homicide by her own stifled desire for control and security (both of which rise as major themes throughout the story). This yearning for control initially becomes clear in the way Emily's peculiar behavior is introduced to the reader throughout the text; her insistence on abiding by her own code of conduct is a major theme of the story. She appears to live by her own conditions in virtually everything she does: including not paying taxes, not showing up at the requests of the mayor or sheriff, refusing the town's new free postal delivery service, and declining to disclose a reason for purchasing arsenic. Emily learns that she most  easily finds the control she craves in the bodies of the deceased: individuals who, by definition, are completely unresponsive and unable to resist her advances. Emily also seems to continue to suffer from the effects of being isolated from the outside community by her father, even long after his death. The townspeople are collectively aware of Emily’s father’s authoritarian rule and it appears to be common knowledge that she has never truly been able to interact with the outside world at large. “We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door” (page 4). In this image, Emily is a small, insignificant figure clothed in white, a color that often stands representative of innocence and goodness. Her father, of course, looms in the foreground: a belligerent tyrant with a goal to protect his daughter and a weapon at his disposal. The fear of change and a reluctance to accept it seems prevalent throughout the story. Not only does Emily crave control, but she also desperately yearns for comfort and familiarity: for time to stand still. She seems preoccupied with trying to keep things the way they are, and clearly struggles with rapid or unexpected change. It is evident that she was barely able to cope with her father’s passing – “she told them that her father was not dead. She did that for three days...” (page 4) – after having lived her entire life in his shadow. When the newer generation begins to permeate the community, Emily does not let the town keep her up to speed. “When the town got free postal delivery, Miss Emily alone refused to let them fasten the metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox to it. She would not listen to them” (page 8). The detrimental effects of not being able to keep up with a rapidly changing world are made clear with Emily’s story; she eventually falls victim to her own futile attempts to stay in the past and loses her own mind trying to preserve her history and lost ones.  The story is organized into three acts that do not unfold chronologically. Act I opens with Emily’s own funeral, which takes place near the very end of the natural storyline. Faulkner’s decision to begin writing with the scene of Emily’s funeral is curiously effective; it draws the reader in and creates a type of subversive mystery in which the fatal outcome is revealed from the get-go and the darker underlying secrets are subsequently exposed as the story proceeds.  As death is one of the most thrilling and enigmatic incidents that could befall a character in fiction, opening a story with what is normally a plot climax scene is a powerful choice on Faulkner’s part that allows the reader to start with the ending and then unravel the rest of the haunting narrative. Faulkner weaves a story whose narrator is, interestingly, not a single individual. The point of view from which the story is told is a voice that seems to stand representative of all of the townspeople of Emily’s community through the use of “we” and “our”. This creates a voice that appears omnipresent and almost omniscient, which manages to capture and convey the sometimes hostile, sometimes simply curious attitudes that the townspeople generally have towards Emily. It is thanks to this style of narration that the reader is only let in on key parts of Emily’s life and truth until the story culminates in the reveal of Homer Barron’s rotting corpse in Emily’s home, because it is truly reflective of the limited knowledge the townspeople have. In other words, it feels almost as if the reader is learning about all the cruxes of Emily’s story at the same time that the townspeople are, although the narrator(s) speaks in the past-tense. In many ways, it seems that Faulkner chose this point of view for narration to make the reader feel like one of the townspeople and further immerse him or her in the story. With both Homer and her father, Emily is struck by an overwhelming desire for things to stay the same and for herself to remain at the helm of her life story, and feels stuck upon feeling as though she can no longer keep Homer around through conventional means. Her resort to  murder is one truly derived from utter fear and desperation – emotions that she likely became familiar with, but was forced to repress growing up under the despotic rule of her father. This exemplifies the overarching themes of “A Rose for Emily”: isolation, fear and oppression, and change, and Faulkner’s stylistic choices to construct the story with a non-chronological structure and a multifaceted narrating voice are vital to the mystery and unsettling nature of the piece.
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